embrace nationality flag immigrant

Root yourself with your flag

Present day society is facing one of the most complex and difficult scenarios of being able to accept diversity. Why am I bringing this up? In the past years, the topic of being a foreigner or cultural "outlier" in foreign soil has become a theme almost too delicate to touch. Whether you are an undocumented or documented individual living in a place other than your native country, issues arise.

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Leaving political issues aside, acceptance has shown to be a recurring issue in many communities. Often, a person who has come into another country is often forced or socially pushed to adapt to the new and leave the old behind. The problem with this is that you are not asking someone to change into a new pair of socks, you're telling them to get new feet. While this is a weird analogy, think about it. A person's life doesn't begin the moment they set foot in a new environment. Rather, it is the trajectory that led them there that shapes a person's life. When you make fun of someone for having broken English, you are highlighting their alienation from the rest, and neglecting that behind that person was once a child who cried because they thought they'd never be able to master the language. When you say someone's religious practices are ridiculous and that if they were more "cultured" they wouldn't be worshipping a cross, a Buddha, or fasting for Ramadan, take a look to see why they are so adamant about giving thanks to their deity. If you cannot understand them, try to learn from them.

Remaining rooted to your natal soil is not just for the mere purpose of honoring it, but it preserves you as a person. Personally, going away from home became a major moment for me as a Mexican. I enjoyed living among other cultures and discovering new ways of life. However, the day came when I felt I was losing my roots in trying to assimilate completely. In a sense, I felt an immense longing that not even the beautiful scenery could make up for. I began bringing in more of my home into my new one, and with it brought a cementing of my identity. Yes, I was a San Franciscan now, but at the end of the day a Mexican living in San Francisco. At first, I was reluctant to tell people I was from Mexico. The political scene had left too much dirt on my country, and I was afraid that telling people where I came from would hinder my abilities to move through the professional and social scene. Like me, I have met many people in the same situations. Where only one country is named supreme while the rest are inferior. It is because of these ideologies that many of us are not just ostracized, but worst of all made to question our roots.

Being a foreigner in another country does not make you a parasite. Having different practices, speaking more than one language, and having different musical and gastronomic tastes makes you unique. It is uniqueness that has produced the greatest minds and most influential people. It is an advantage, to an extent, knowing that the world is not comprised of a single area of land. It is almost as if you come to understand each other. Being an "outsider" in a new country establishes an unspoken language between everyone. Everyone is there for a reason, fortunately, in my case, it has been to study. But others have had to leave their places to seek a better life. When racism and superiority replace humanity, it doesn't make you look true to your country or protector of your people, it makes you look ignorant, it makes you look stupid. Getting in my face telling me and many others how we will all be wiped out and sent back home won't make you more macho, again, you look stupid. Because let me leave one thing clear, no one leaves their country and their identity for fun. The difference between traveling and migrating is that one was for pleasure and the other for necessity, evolution. For those of us who see the world from another perspective, who have come to experience different cultures and ways of life, I assert you that this racism set by leaders is not so much about speaking for the people, it is a way of displaying and playing with their power. Of course, there are people who want to keep their races "virgin" from others, and people afraid of change. However, if you come into a country other than your own, do it for your people, for your country, and for those who will come after you. Never compromise your identity, your roots, and the values your culture taught you from the moment you began to learn. Opposition is something inevitable, but persistence is very much alive regardless of politics and borders.

I'm proposing that you embrace your culture. Wherever you are. That for every remark about being Mexican, Middle Eastern, Black, Asian, and whatnot you put your flag tight around you while you work, and let it wave at the peak of success.

Cover Image Credit:

photo by JaySpeaks

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Austin Alexander Burridge, Volunteer Advocate, Shares 3 Great Reasons to Volunteer and Help Others

Austin Alexander Burridge is an avid academic who studies Environmental Science at Winona State University and believes that work in the service of others is a key pillar to personal development.

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Sometimes it's easy for someone to adopt a "me, me, me" attitude. While focusing on oneself, a person may feel nice in the moment, but serving and helping others will bring lasting benefits. While there are many great reasons to serve and help others, there are three universal truths that resonate with volunteers around the globe.

Austin Alexander Burridge's 3 Reasons to Volunteer:

1. Accomplishment

Often, people fall into a trap of focusing on themselves when they are feeling down. Maybe someone did not get a job they wanted. Or perhaps a person gets dumped by an expected lifelong companion. Maybe someone feels they have underachieved after looking at Facebook and seeing great things a high school classmate has accomplished. When feeling down, helping others is a proven way to improve one's mood and attitude, and it can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. The act of giving to those in need is an inherently good action and leaves people with a wonderful feeling of joy.

2. Gratitude

One can become more appreciative of life by serving others that have less. Whether volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting the elderly at an assisted living center, or helping families after a natural disaster, service enables people to be grateful for what they have. Seeing people who have fewer advantages, especially those who are spirited and thankful for small things, allows one to realize just how fortunate he/she is in life.

3. Friendships

Volunteering is a great way to build meaningful friendships, not only with other volunteers but also with those who are served. One of the most profound and fascinating aspects of these relationships is how volunteers will learn from those served and vice versa. As these special bonds are built, they lead to impactful connections that last for years to come.

Of course, these are just a few reasons to volunteer and serve others. One can never go wrong by helping others as opposed to merely focusing on oneself. Volunteering invariably and inevitably contributes to personal growth, development, and satisfaction.

About Austin Alexander Burridge: Helping others has been of paramount importance to Austin, and as a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Austin gave back to the community around him. He also has participated in annual peanut butter drives, The Minnesota Sandwich Project for the Homeless and collected canned goods for local food shelters. Additionally, Austin has a passion for the environment, which he pursued when visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and the Amazon Rain Forest while studying at the School of Environment Studies, which investigates ecological systems and their sustainability

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Terrors Behind "Toddlers & Tiaras" - Beauty Pageants Need To Go!

Why Honey Boo Boo is not the girl we should be idolizing...

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Honey Boo Boo is famous for her extravagant persona, extreme temper tantrums, overwhelming attitude, and intense sassiness. All of these qualities are shared by many other young girls who participate in beauty pageants - not just in "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" but also in TLC's notorious "Toddlers & Tiaras," a show that depicts the horrors of little girls who have dedicated their childhood to winning the crown.

These shows, and the pageants they glorify do nothing but force girls to grow up too quickly, send negative messages to viewers and participants and pose health risks for the girls involved.

Therefore, beauty pageants for young girls should be abolished.

The hypersexualization that takes place in these pageants is staggering. Not only are young girls' minds molded into having a superficial view on beauty, but they are also waxed, spray-tanned, given wigs, retouched in pictures, injected with Botox and fillers, and painted with fake abs and even breasts.

Sexy is the goal, not cute. Girls of ages 2-12 wear skimpy clothing, accentuating only their underdeveloped bodies. A 4-year-old girl on "Toddlers and Tiaras" once impersonated Dolly Parton with fake breasts, another dressed as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (so basically, a prostitute), and another even pretended to smoke a cigarette to look like Sandy from Grease.

In Venezuela, people are so obsessed with pageants that they send their daughters to "Miss Factories," to train them to win. At these factories, underage girls undergo plastic surgery and hormone therapy to delay puberty in attempts to grow taller. In addition, they often get mesh sewn onto their tongues so that they are physically incapable of eating solid food. This idea of taking horrific measures to look slimmer is not unique to Venezuela. A former Miss USA explained that she would "slather on hemorrhoid ointment, wrap herself up with Saran wrap, and run on a treadmill with an incline for 30 minutes to tighten her skin and waist up." Many countries, including France and Israel have banned child beauty pageants because it is "hypersexualizing." Why has the US yet to follow in their footsteps?

Additionally, the pageants strip their young contestants of a childhood by basically putting them through harsh child labor. Oftentimes, girls as young as 18 months old participate in pageants. There is no way that a girl under 2 years old has the capacity to decide for herself that she wants to participate in a beauty pageant. Not to mention, education often takes a backseat in pageant girls' lives as long practice sessions interfere with sleep and homework. This causes long-term distress for the contestants, including widespread unemployment for former pageant girls.

Moreover, these pageants tie self-worth and self-esteem to attractiveness. They teach girls that natural beauty and intelligence are not enough, when in actuality they should be doing the opposite. In fact, 72% of pageant girls hire coaches to train girls to be more "attractive."

Finally, these pageants pose potent health risks for the girls competing. Not only do intense rehearsals interfere with their sleep cycles, but they are also impacted by the harmful methods taken to keep them awake. One example is Honey Boo Boo's "go go juice" - AKA a mixture of Mountain Dew and Red Bull. She is known for drinking this continuously throughout pageant days to stay awake and energetic - but the health risks associated with the drinks, let alone for such a young girl, are completely ignored.

And, the future health problems associated with pageantry cannot be looked past. Participating in beauty pageants as kids leads to eating disorders, perfectionism, depression - in fact, at least 6% suffer from depression while competing. "The Princess Syndrome," as Psychology Today calls it relates to a small study published in 2005 that showed that former childhood beauty pageant contestants had higher rates of body dissatisfaction. This sense of dissatisfaction can so easily be translated to more severe mental and physical health issues, including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. The average BMI (Body Mass Index) of a Beauty Contestant in the US in 1930 was 20.8, which is universally in the middle of the "healthy" range. In 2010, it was 16.9, which is considered underweight for anyone.

So, despite the entertainment these shows and pageants provide, they should most definitely be stopped due to the immense amount of issues they cause for those involved and those who watch.

Although Honey Boo Boo is (sadly) considered one of America's sweethearts, her experience in pageantry has certainly not been a positive influence in her life nor in the lives of her fans - and this is the case for nearly all young pageant girls.

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